The nature of community control ideology, its relation to more general political consciousness, and its social correlates are explored. The primary data are drawn from two main sources: a survey of the attitudes of 362 civic and political leaders in seven districts of New York City conducted in 1972 using a combination of structural and reputational indicators to identify the sample; and intensive participant observation in three of these districts during 1973–74, along with 175 semi-structured, in-depth interviews with individuals in district-level voluntary organizations, interest groups, political parties, poverty boards and agencies, and “street-level” bureaucratic roles.
Both quantitative and qualitative analyses suggest that the great majority of leaders subscribes to a democratic rather than a race-conflict rationale for community control, but that there is a strong independent relationship between minority group status and operational support for community control. Possible explanations for this finding include the present interests of minority groups in American cities, the functional inadequacies of the political party structure, and the developmental history of the civil rights movement and its ideology. The relationship between race and community control may fade, however, if community control ceases to be a useful vehicle for advancing the interests of minority groups. One crucial determinant will be the identifications and beliefs of minority group members who are recruited into urban bureaucracies. Another is whether experience with decentralized city agencies indicates that movement toward increased community involvement in government leads, in fact, to enhanced power and patronage for minorities. The data point to a continuing attachment to the community control ideology but also a recasting of it in a more qualifiéd and complex form.